The COVID-19 pandemic taught business leaders the importance of understanding external economic data, especially when doing business planning and forecasting.
Before the pandemic, many would rely on internal historic data to plan for the coming years, but with the current market volatility, an unpredictable supply chain, a changing labor market and many more economic issues drawing out the recovery, leaders are turning to software solutions to plan for stability.
Alloy client Prevedere has experienced strong market traction, nearly doubling its client portfolio in 2021-2022. Its Advanced Predictive Planning platform paired with its on-staff economists has helped business leaders not only understand what changes are coming, but how those changes could directly affect their businesses.
We recently spoke with Prevedere’s Principal Economist Michelle Green to learn more about her career as an economist, how the COVID-19 pandemic changed business planning and the role marketing plays in understanding economic data.
Question: You’ve spent over 16 years working as an economist - first with the U.S. Department of Labor and now as Prevedere’s principal economist. What drew you to a career as an economist in the private sector?
Answer: I always knew I wanted to do something that would help people make better decisions. Life is hard and sometimes confusing, and our ability to thrive is dependent on our understanding of the forces that work against us. Economics is a subject that for many is a black box. It’s very powerful in the sense that it touches virtually every aspect of our lives, and yet, it’s a subject that is elusive to so many people. The forces that drive economic activity are not always intuitive, and it’s a process that determines whether our futures are safe or unstable.
As a student, and early in my career, I saw a great deal of value in public service as an avenue to great impact – where my work could directly impact the quality of information people had at their disposal to help make better decisions about their future. I still see this value, but the value that public sector economists add to the broader dialogue is indirect. Government economists are usually not prescriptive - they are academic, unbiased, and objective - and while I truly believe the work is essential and meaningful, it can be limiting from a tactical standpoint.
Providing accurate information is essential, but if nobody knows how to act on it, it’s irrelevant. This is what attracted me to the private sector, and to Prevedere in particular. Our platform and service offerings make economics accessible to the public at large, so they can better understand the economic factors working for (and against) them, and make proactive decisions in support of their goals.
Question: What role do you think marketing plays in helping business leaders make sense of economic data?
Answer: Marketing plays an essential role in that it raises awareness in our public consciousness about the issues that are most relevant in our daily lives. Problems that need to be solved, processes or products that make our lives easier, information that will make our lives better…how would we know about them if not for marketing? Economics, and more importantly, economic data are no different.
In a world filled with an abundance of data, it is nearly impossible for any individual person or business to know which economic data is most important to their bottom line. Marketing helps weed out the noise and draw attention to the information that is most impactful and meaningful in an always-changing environment.
Question: How did the COVID-19 pandemic change how business leaders utilized technology for business and marketing planning?
Answer: How did it not? It was such a massive shock and seemed to have touched every aspect of our lives. Where we were once capable of understanding our world with a standard set of readily available monthly data, we suddenly found ourselves in need of something more timely – immediate, in fact.
The situation changed daily, and business decisions needed to be made in real-time. We needed to make assurances – to our families, to our customers, to our shareholders, and to ourselves - that we would survive this, that we would overcome this, and that we would return to a ‘normal’ life. Technology made this easier for us. We could scrape the internet for high-frequency data, now more available, to make sense of the chaos we found ourselves in. Technology let us curate that data, validate it, make sense of what was happening. Technology helped us adapt to a world with less face-to-face interaction and have confidence in the results of virtual communion – as in our relationships could survive, our commerce could survive, our institutions could survive, and we could be okay.
Without technology we would not have had access to basic goods, like soap or toilet paper, our children would have gone without schooling, we would have been in the dark (literally and figuratively). But, we weren’t. Technology enabled us to weather a major catastrophic event – a global pandemic that caused tremendous loss of human life – with only moderate disruption to our routine. Yes, we were home more often, yes, we were unhappy about it, but technology made it possible for us to carry on.
Question: Prevedere has seen a lot of growth in the last year and a half – as more and more business leaders incorporate AI and machine learning into their planning and forecasting processes. As AI continues to become embedded in financial and marketing planning, how do you see the role of an economist changing?
Answer: I don’t actually see the role of an economist changing – economists are here to help people make sense of complex, cyclical relationships between consumers and suppliers (and sometimes governments) – but I think the importance of having an economist perspective is increasing. The world today is volatile, historic economic relationships are questionable, and stability is uncertain.
The traditional method of using past performance to predict future performance is unreliable. In such times, experts are needed to help clarify the information that has become cloudy. This is a role that economists have always played, and that is more relevant today than it has been for some time.
Question: As Prevedere’s principal economist, Alloy uses you as one of the company’s key spokespeople (like your recent contributions to The Wall Street Journal). What advice do you have for other SMEs who haven’t participated in a corporate thought leadership program before?
Answer: Don’t hold back. Share what you know. Your ability to innovate and contribute is only limited by your uncertainty. Be sure, be confident, be bold. That’s what we need. Your company, your clients, your community – we all need it.